“Rafa and I Had a Little Laugh” – Novak Djokovic Shares Locker Room Joke With Rafael Nadal at Italian Open 2021

Published 05/16/2021, 3:39 AM EDT
Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 15, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts during his semi final match against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane


Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, through their superhuman exploits in the ongoing Italian Open, have reaffirmed that the force is still with the Big 3 to hold out the challenge from the Next-Gen.

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The current World No.1 and defending champion heroically wore down Stefanos Tsitsipas in a fierce battle of attrition and nerves in the quarters. Djoko then brought his signature grit to bear on crowd favorite Lorenzo Sonego to set up a dream final against Nadal.

The Spaniard, a nine-time Rome champion and 11-time finalist himself, gave a similar masterclass to young Jannik Sinner and Denis Shapovalov before avenging his Madrid loss against Alexander Zverev.

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Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 13, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his third round match against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

More than anything else, what these performances have established beyond any reasonable doubt is that the Next-Gen stars, though getting ever closer to rattling the Big 3’s gilded cage, are still way off when it comes to matching their mental strength and hunger to win.

“Old guys still not giving up” – Novak Djokovic recalls locker room talk with Rafael Nadal

Speaking to reporters after coming out on the winning side of almost five hours of nerveless court battle on Saturday, Djokovic recalled sharing a light moment with Nadal in between their matches.

He said they joked about how the “old guys” are still holding their own in the face of an assault from the younger lot.

“Well Rafa and I had a little laugh today in the locker room after I won against Tsitsipas. We joked around about, you know, that the old guys are still not giving up,” the reigning Australian Open champion said.

He said he read about the 13-time French Open champion saying recently that the Big 3 (combined nickname for Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer) are going over the hill, but added that he disagrees with the Spaniard as their old limbs are still good enough to give the fresh legs a run for their money.

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Djokovic says Big 3 are playing with fresh energy

“I saw he said somewhere a few days ago that Roger, him and I are old. But I disagree with him, I think we’re some fresh energy. We’d a laugh about it,” Djokovic said.

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While the Serb and the Spaniard have aced the Next-Gen test and will go head to head for the Rome title, their Swiss peer will seek similar affirmation at the Geneva Open next week.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

984 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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